Mountain Biking

Everything you need to know about mountain biking in WNC – Asheville Citizen-Times

, Asheville Citizen Times Published 6:00 a.m. ET June 9, 2019


A preview of Joel Burgess’s guide for beginners and seasoned moutain bikers. The Citizen-Times

Editor’s note: This was originally published in 2017.

Mountain biking can be incredibly fun but can also be a confusing pastime for beginners. What kind of bike should I get? Where are the trails? How difficult are they? Will I get lost?

Those legitimate concerns can be substantial barriers for would-be two-wheeled forest explorers.

Here’s a quick guide to help beginners get started and give more seasoned riders some tips on a few classic WNC trails.

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Where you can get a mountain bike

If you can borrow a bike from an experienced mountain biking friend, that’s great. But because of cost, some folks are understandably leery of loaning out their “rigs.”

Another good option is a rental from one of many area bike shops. Call ahead. Tell them what your fitness and experience levels are and what kind of riding you’d like to do. (Flat trails, please? Steep climbs? Rolling terrain? Big downhills?) Even if you plan to buy a bike, renting is a great way to feel out what kind you might like. Higher-end rentals are known as “demos” and are a way for potential buyers to test out a certain make and model of bike.

The essential gear you need to bring

Wear a helmet. Period.

Gloves are also a good idea to protect your hands. Shorts with pads in the posterior are ideal. You’ll appreciate them. Beginning riders will be fine with most kinds of sport or hiking shoes. Some more advanced riders like “clip-in” pedals that lock to the bottom of special shoes. 

Rental bikes often come with trail tools. Ask about them. It’s a good idea to have a spare tube, pump, tire levers and folding “multitool” that’s got an assortment of useful small wrenches. Ask a shop worker or friend for a quick demonstration of how to use them.

Pack food and water, even for short rides

Many people like backpack-style hydration packs, but a water bottle (or two) is fine, depending on length of ride. It’s always good to bring an energy bar or other high-calorie snack, even if you think it will be a short ride, said Claudia Nix, co-owner of Liberty Bikes, one of the oldest bike shops in the region.


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“Riders need to make sure they take water and food because they can get lost,” Nix said, recounting a difficult ride. “I had the experience one time of going out to the North Mills River area in the fall with my dog and I ran out of daylight and I ran out of water.”

How to find your way on bike trails

Paid trail tours or a hired guide are options for navigating the trails. Another fun way is to find a group ride that meets regularly and fits your skill level. Again, local bike shops are your best resource.

If you aren’t going with someone who knows the trails, make sure you bring a good map. Don’t count on cell reception. It’s really best to ride with at least one other person, so be especially careful if you go solo.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest 

Bent Creek is a favorite and nearby part of Pisgah National Forest for Asheville area riders. Trails range from beginning to advanced. Here’s a beginner trail with a few challenging sections.

Hardtimes loop: (45 minutes-1 hour) From the Hardtimes Trailhead, ride down gated road. Right at first gravel road intersection. Shortly after, left on cement bridge over stream. Immediate right by large rock onto Homestead Trail. Don’t be afraid to get off and walk at steep or technical sections. Left on Small Creek Trail. Right on Deerfield Loop Trail. (See extension below.) Left at parking lot onto Lake Powhatan access road. Right on Forest Service Road 481. See lake on right. Go by the fishing areas and onto the gated gravel road. Pass cement bridge on right. Retrace path, turning left at gravel road intersection. Follow gravel road back to parking lot.

EXTENSION: (Moderate) After Small Creek take left on Deerfield Loop. Left on Pine Tree Loop Trail. Left on Explorer Loop Trail. Right on forest service road. Right on Explorer Loop. Left on Pine Tree Loop. Left on paved road then quick right at intersection onto road. See lake on right. Go by the fishing areas and onto the gated gravel road. Pass cement bridge on right. Retrace path, turning left at gravel road intersection. Follow gravel road back to parking lot.

Wintergreen Falls at DuPont State Forest

A phenomenally popular state forest whose center was once slated for a multimillion-dollar housing development. 

“The way the trails were designed and built, DuPont can be fun at a lot of different speeds and a lot of different levels,” said Woody Keen, a former professional trail builder who was instrumental in convincing the state to stop the development.

Wintergreen Falls is a beginner-intermediate trail with a waterfall.

Wintergreen Falls: (Hour round trip) From Guion Farms parking area head left (south) out of parking lot along the tree line on Tarkiln Branch Road. Left on Wintergreen Falls Trail. Follow signs to waterfall. Get closer on foot. Retrace route to get back.

Did you know?

In this region, mountain bikes are allowed on designated trails in national forests, state forests, some city and county parks and even some private land. There are no mountain bike trails in national parks in WNC.

Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest

This part of Pisgah National Forest features some of the area’s most thrilling and difficult trails. Here’s a very advanced ride with extensions.

Black Mountain loop: (More than two hours) Park at the Black Mountain Trailhead. Right out of parking area onto U.S. 276. Stay right and watch for cars. Right on Avery Creek Road (Forest Service Road 477 to horse stables). Right past stables up Clawhammer Road for a long climb. Right on Maxwell Cove Road (Forest Service Road 5022). At top, right on Black Mountain. Includes very technical climb and descent. At next intersection, to shorten ride take right to stay on Black Mountain and finish at parking lot.

EXTENSION: At intersection, left onto Thrift Cove. Take long winding downhill to intersection with Grassy Road. To shorten ride, straight on Thrift. Left on Black Mountain down to parking lot.

EXTENSION: At intersection, left on Grassy Road. Left on Sycamore Cove Trail. Right on U.S. 276 back to parking lot.

How to make the most of mountain biking in WNC

An advanced, lung-busting and at times white-knuckle ride, Big Rock and Cedar Rock trails in DuPont State Forest offer great views and unique riding. Sunrise is the very best time. Corn Mill Shoals parking lot is on Cascade Lake Road. Drive south on Cascade Lake if you’re coming from Asheville or Hendersonville. From Brevard, drive north. Across the road from the parking lot take Corn Mill Shoals Trail. Left on Little River Trail. Left for big climb up Cedar Rock. At the top enjoy the view from the granite bald then take a right on Big Rock. The eventual descent takes you back to Corn Mill Shoals. Right back to parking lot.

Etiquette for mountain biking

Bikes yield to both hikers and horses. Sometimes hikers will move over for you. Horses, though, can be confused by bikes, so give some room. It’s best to get off and talk to the horseback rider. Cyclists going downhill should yield to uphill riders though that can be reversed if the climber is feeling magnanimous — or tired. When passing someone from another group, it’s nice to tell them how many more people in your group are behind you. Don’t litter or leave unnecessary skid marks.

Ready to ride? Check out these trails:

  • Richmond Hill Park, 280 Richmond Hill Drive, Asheville.
  • Kolo Bike Park, 1 Resort Drive, Asheville.
  • Biltmore Estate, 2 Lodge St, Asheville.
  • Pisgah National Forest, Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Hardtimes Trailhead. 375 Wesley Branch Road, Asheville.
  • Pisgah National Forest, Mills River, Trace Ridge Trailhead. Take North Mills River Road west, right on Wash Creek Road (Forest Service Road 5000), drive two miles and take the first left directly over a concrete bridge/spillway, trailhead at end of road.
  • Pisgah National Forest, Davidson River area, Black Mountain Trailhead. 1346 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest
  • DuPont State Forest, Guion Farm, 3045 Sky Valley Road, Hendersonville.

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